- Hearings are important and can determine the future direction of legislation.
- They play a central role in obtaining information and opinions about an industry and its future.
- The use of expert testimonies at hearings is essential, helping to present the facts and correct potential erroneous opinions.
The current state of play
On the 14th of February, the Congress held a hearing hearing on financial safeguards for digital assets. The committee met to hear testimonies on issues like stablecoin regulation, crypto and banking, the pros and cons of a self-regulatory organization for the industry, and how to regulate digital assets.
This week, the State of California will have its own hearing on crypto after Assembly Member Timothy Grayson recently introduced a bill, the Digital Financial Assets Law, which seeks to license and regulate cryptocurrency exchanges.
This is the latest in a string of committee hearings related to crypto, with 2022 witnessing 15 such events – with two added at the end of the year in mid-December following FTX’s collapse. Back in September 2022, CCI CEO Sheila Warren appeared as a witness before the Senate to review the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act.
Warren made the case that digital assets provide many opportunities—from reducing international payment fees, to helping artists reach audiences and generate sufficient income, to building greater financial inclusion. The testimony—which you can read in full here—is a crash course on all things crypto and Web3, and explains why there is an urgent need for thoughtful regulation and suggests ways to improve the legislation under discussion.
What is a hearing?
A hearing is simply a meeting of a legislative committee. They are designed to obtain information and opinions in matters ranging from proposed legislation to investigation. Some hearings are exploratory, providing testimony and data about issues of interest.
Both federal and state legislatures have hearings and committees. There are a few differences beyond the fact that while submitting written testimony before the hearing is compulsory at the federal level, this isn’t always the case at state hearings.
Are there different types of hearings?
Yes. At the federal level there are four types:
Legislative – these seek testimonies on measures and policy issues that may become law. Hearings offer facts and opinions from witnesses with backgrounds who will in some way be affected by the proposed legislation. Most crypto hearings have been legislative.
Oversight – these review or study a law, issue or activity related to the quality of federal or state programs and performance of government officials. They are designed to improve government operations.
Investigative – as the name suggests, these are investigation-based and held when there is the suspicion of wrongdoing. They often result in legislation to address the problems that are uncovered.
Confirmation – these relate solely to presidential or gubernatorial nominations, with legislatures often required to ‘advise and consent’.
What happens at a hearing?
Typically, a hearing involves statements by the chair and ranking member of the committee, testimonies from invited witnesses, and member questions. Full hearings typically last for a few hours, but can be longer depending on the issue.
Involved are legislators, other government officials, interest groups, academics and citizens who the issue in question will affect.
What is a testimony?
A testimony is simply what the individual speaking before the committee says.
Are testimonies legally binding?
What a witness says in a testimony becomes part of the public record. Anyone knowingly misrepresenting any fact is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Anyone can submit a written testimony ‘for the record’ but all submissions are reviewed for suitability.
Why do hearings matter?
Congressional hearings constitute the primary formal means by which committees collect and analyze information in the initial stages of policy-making.
Can I watch a hearing?
For the most part, yes. Most are public, with the exception of ones at which sensitive subjects, like national security, are discussed. You can watch CCI’s Senate’s hearing from September 2022 and 2023’s California legislature hearing.
What is a committee?
Hearings are held by committees. At the federal level, both the House of Representatives and Senate have committees. For the former, committees are groups of members appointed to investigate, debate and make a report containing their findings. Reflecting the large quantity of legislation that the House debates, the number of committees has grown, offering a permanent way for members to divide their work.
In the House, there are five types of committee – standing, subcommittee, select, joint and the Committee of the Whole. Standing committees consider bills and other legislation before the House of Representatives. There are currently 20 standing committees, covering different areas of public policy.
Select committees are temporary and created to complete a specific task. They research a specific issue or oversee government agencies.
Joint committees include members from the House of Representatives and Senate, and debate and report matters related to Congress, not public policy.
Finally, the Committee of the Whole is used to move legislation through to the House for a quick vote, and involve 100 members rather than the full House.
Who sits on a committee?
Every Member, Delegate and Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives serves on two standing committees. They are required to develop expertise in the content area in question, and beyond the everyday work of the committee, write reports and studies about the issue.
In the Senate, committees are ranked by importance from Class A (most important) to Class C. Every senator may serve on no more than two Class A committees, one Class B and as many Class C committees as they want to.
At the state level, each state legislature has its own unique dynamic when it comes to committee memberships.
What is the Congressional record?
This is the daily official record of Congressional proceedings and debates. It was first published in 1873, and continues to this day.
Crypto-related committee hearings in 2022
There were at least 15 federal hearings related to crypto and blockchain technology over the course of the year:
- Senate Banking Committee: 4
- House Financial Services Committee: 3
- Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry: 3
- House Agriculture Committee: 2
- House Committee on Energy and Commerce: 1
- Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs: 1
- House Committee on Homeland Security: 1
To help visualize the year that was 2022, CCI put together this interactive timeline layering key policy events, enforcement actions, and legislation on top of global news headlines. Layering key policy events, enforcement actions, and legislation on top of global news headlines will enable you to see just how many things happened at the same time this year. Selecting filters and clicking on the events will bring you to tweets, news articles and primary sources from January until early December 2022.